Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the St. Martin’s Episcopal School basketball, soccer and indoor track teams have all kicked off their seasons.
Hoping for a sense of normalcy, team members have returned to a seemingly regular routine, following COVID-19 regulations set by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association. Several protocols have been required to ensure the safety of the athletes, such as wearing a mask during practice and while on the bench during games.
However, due to the spike in positive COVID-19 cases after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, St. Martin’s was forced to quarantine many of its winter sports teams in January. Among those quarantined were the girls and boys basketball teams, as well as the girls soccer team.
Head Boys Basketball Coach Michael Odom said that the pandemic has brought on an additional challenge with the later start to the season.
“We were unable to have a summer program for the most part so the challenge was unlike any other year,” Odom said. “Combine that with our young group and COVID, I am so proud of the way our guys have accepted the challenge. It's a credit in particular to our two seniors for their leadership: Monte [Lewis] and Thomas [Devall].”
As of February 3, the boys basketball team is having a winning season, with a 9-3 record. However, their record has been impacted by several games cancelled as a result of the team’s three quarantines.
Senior Thomas Devall, captain of the boys basketball team, expressed concern over qualifying for the playoffs if they were unable to reschedule missed games.
“We were going to miss ten whole days of practice,“ Devall said. “We also had 2 games that week scheduled so we had to reschedule those, which worried me. Teams have to play at least 20 games to qualify for playoffs, so it was crucial to reschedule those as quickly as possible.”
Although the team has spent cumulatively over a month in isolation due to COVID-19 exposures, they have not let this affect their competitiveness.
“One of our main goals this season has been to establish trust, chemistry, and belief in our young team in our goal to compete at our highest level possible every time we play,” Odom said. “We had a big win on Senior Night v. Fisher and another one last Friday [January 29] v. St. Charles Catholic.”
Only having two seniors and a relatively young team, Odom is excited for the future of these players.
“Losing some guys throughout the season, especially to injury is nothing new,” Odom said. “But I have to say some of our younger players have played with a lot of confidence and guts. I am proud, and our expectations are high for success in the future.”
The girls basketball team had to quarantine after one of East Jefferson High School’s players, against whom St. Martin’s had played the previous day, tested positive for COVID-19. Head Girls’ Basketball Coach Courtney Ward’s thoughts turned to how to adapt for the rest of the season.
“This was a possibility,” Ward said. “I wasn’t surprised. I was just thinking, ‘Okay. My team’s going to be quarantined. What is the best thing that we can do while they are in quarantine to stay in shape and be ready for when we return?’”
Being quarantined right before their rival match against St. Amant High School was a downer for the players who have been working hard all season. Nevertheless, the girls continued to work hard at home.
“[During our quarantine] we still were working out and we sent the players a workout to do to continue their running and try to stay in shape, while we were out,” Ward said. “The day we came back off quarantine we had a game so we didn’t get a chance to practice.”
For the ten days that the team was quarantined, they managed to grow closer while in isolation.
“We [the coaches] wanted to see all of our players’ faces so we set up a team meeting to mainly talk about workouts and to do some team bonding and just making sure we are staying connected, even though we weren’t physically able to see each other,” Ward said.
After Christmas break, almost half of the boys soccer team was similarly quarantined, and they were forced to cancel matches. However, the members who were not quarantined still attended practice.
“Our practices were smaller,” said Senior Chris Catinis, captain of the boys soccer team. “We had them in the gym instead of on the field because there weren't enough people for that … We had to postpone four games.”
Head Girls Soccer Coach Bobby Velasquez assigned workouts and drills to the girls soccer team, likewise quarantined, to stay in shape for return to practices.
Athletic Trainer Tara Sosa says the effect of COVID-19 on young athletes is still unknown, and as a result, stressed the importance of following protocols.
“They haven’t been able to determine long term effects, cardiovascular or pulmonary, [on young people who have had COVID-19],” Sosa said. “They recommend anybody who is doing a physical activity, or sports where they have to exert themself, after COVID to have an EKG, an exam to make sure they are good to go.”
Additional reporting by Leven Greene.